Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Joining a Professional Organization

Professional organizations are great resources for students, new professionals and industry experts alike to gather together, share ideas, network and learn new tricks of the trade. While some require members to pay monthly or annual membership dues, most offer great benefits that far offset the costs. For example, the American Criminal Justice Association provides its members with a membership certificate, national newsletters and journals, as well as job hunting information. This job information can alert members to new and available position within the criminal justice field, as well as local job fairs that members can attend.

These professional organizations also host a great deal of networking and learning opportunities, including mixers, happy hours, seminars and workshops. Staying abreast of the latest industry trends is essential to being valuable in the workplace. These gatherings are also a great way to meet important people in the industry, as well as make new friends who share a common interest. For example, the Southern Criminal Justice Association sponsors an annual meeting at a different location each year, where members can share ideas, listen to exhibitors and lecturers discuss the field of criminal justice in the southern United States.

Aside from the other benefits, joining a professional organization as a student or new professional can offer you several opportunities to volunteer your time and talents, while also improving the look of your resume. Volunteering to help plan the annual meeting, for example, shows potential employers, as well as fellow members, that you have dedication, initiative and you like to give back. You can meet influential members while also gaining valuable experience and insight into your professional industry.

Before you join any organization or association, it is important to do your research. Be sure that the organization truly meets your needs and will offer you everything you hope to get out of joining a professional association. The worst thing that could happen, is to pay membership to an association that you decide does not suit your professional and social goals and you end up wasting your time and money. If you are unsure of what the organization is all about, consider contacting the organization liaison. Asking them any lingering questions you may have and perhaps attending some events before you sign up can help ease you into the association.

While joining a professional organization requires a commitment of time and money, that is far outweighed by the membership benefits of friendship, professional development, employment assistance and camaraderie.

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